Rockets target US facility in Iraq, again

These rockets are one of many attacks on US forces in Iraq over the last two years.

US F-16 fighter jet arrives at a military base in Balad, north of Baghdad July 13, 2015.  (photo credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)
US F-16 fighter jet arrives at a military base in Balad, north of Baghdad July 13, 2015.
(photo credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)
Three rockets targeted Balad Air Base in central Iraq’s Saladin province on Wednesday, according to a US military statement. These rockets are one of many attacks on US forces in Iraq over the last two years.
The attacks are usually carried out by pro-Iranian militias linked to official paramilitary groups and political parties. In the past, they have used 107 mm. and 122 mm. rockets, as well as drones. There have been at least four drone attacks on US facilities in Erbil and Al Asad Air Base.
While the Balad Air Base has US contractors, the US has pointed out that it does not have American troops on the base. Nevertheless, it has been a frequent target. Sabareen news first reported the incident and then other reports in Iraq appeared to confirm it.
Wednesday was an auspicious day for Iran and Iraq. Earlier in the day, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force head Esmail Ghaani reportedly arrived in Baghdad. Additionally, Qassam Muslih was released from prison after facing accusations of previous attacks against US forces and killing Iraqi protesters. He is Al-Tofuf (Liwa Al-Tafuf) brigade commander and allegedly linked to pro-Iran militias.
Muslih’s brigade was formed to protect a Shia shrine in Karbala, Iraq, and he was considered close to Ayatollah Sistani, the leader of Iraq’s Shi’ite community, according to expert Jason Brodsky, a Middle East analyst, who tweeted about the incident.
However, Muslih was apparently expelled from the pro-Sistani unit and established his own pro-Iran unit several years ago. The unit was accused of attacks on Kurds during 2017 clashes. He was a key pro-Iranian commander in Anbar province over the last years. Pro-Iranian militias in Iraq have killed protesters and threatened the prime minister. They have also threatened Israel in recent years.
Last month, media reports claimed that Lockheed Martin had pulled contractors working on F-16s from Balad because of threats. There are also contractors of Sallyport Global stationed at Balad. In February, four rockets targeted the base. In March another five rockets were fired at the base. On April 18 the US-led coalition said that “it is being reported that Balad Air Base was attacked with rockets tonight. There are no coalition/US forces stationed at Balad Air base.” Six rockets were fired at the base that night.
In June 2019 reports said there were some 400 employees or contractors at the site and some were to be evacuated at that time due to threats. 20 of the remaining 70 Lockheed contractors were supposed to go to Erbil in May according to a report by The Drive.